John Major The Autobiography Hardcover – 11 Oct 1999
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John Major's rise to the post of British prime minister is a puzzle of modern politics that his lengthy autobiography fails to resolve. It is clear, as we follow him from his modest origins in south London to his work as a local councillor and his remarkable ascent at Westminster under the eye of Margaret Thatcher, that he was driven by a determination to prove himself. But now that we are growing used to the messianic zeal that Tony Blair brings to the role of prime minister, it seems extraordinary that John Major should have achieved the position with such little evident vision or relish. Here is the man we thought we knew, decent, hard-working; at the mercy of events rather than their master.
So we find him bowed down by the misfortunes of an ungrateful world, rendered defensive by problems with the economy, by arguments over Europe, by the intractability of politicians in Northern Ireland, by attacks from within his own party.
With that same party busy airbrushing him from its history--despite his unlikely victory over Neil Kinnock in 1992--it's as well he has got his account into print, an unstuffy telling of a fascinating story that is free of the pomposity that affects so many of his political peers and which reveals a deep-seated belief in the value of basic decency. "I will not concede possession of the recent past to the mythographers of left or right who have every self-interest in retouching the history we made," he says.
But how sad to find him still so defensive and so bitter about the slights of others, still anxious to explain why speeches or gestures were misconstrued. "I was too conservative, too conventional. Too safe, too often. Too defensive. Too reactive," he says. But could he have been anything else? --Kim Fletcher
‘Compelling… a classic of holding the reader’s attention which many fiction writers might envy’
Roy Jenkins, Evening Standard
‘Unsparing… vivid… witty as well as wise’
Geoffrey Howe, Independent
‘One of the few post-war political autobiographies that will endure… compulsively readable and remarkably objective… deeply moving’
Bruce Anderson, Daily Telegraph
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Top Customer Reviews
The candour doesn't stretch to telling us absolutely everything. Like Jimmy Carter John Major was unlucky on top of his own errors, but one great piece of good luck was that his affair (while in a junior post) with a parliamentary colleague Edwina Currie did not come to light until he had left office. It was the funniest story in 20th century British politics and it highlights what was always his problem - he wasn't taken seriously. His face was against him, his voice was against him, and his bank-managerish way of expressing himself at times, such as I have borrowed for my caption to this review via Private Eye, was a gift to the satirists and the chattering classes. Otherwise his style of writing is, in all important and relevant respects, excellent. I cringed on reading '...the huge constituency and its rich variety of interests'; or '...he was always ready with a good-humoured story'.Read more ›
I'd recommend this to anyone with an interest in British political history, or indeed to anyone who wants to read a good autobiography. Mr Major's style is light, often revealing and frank, and only rarely plodding. In many cases, you can almost hear him saying what he has written!
Mr Major comes across as a man who made the best of several pretty miserable hands of cards that were dealt him - from his early life, through to the trials of running a fractious party with a slim majority. The fact that he does this with fortitude and conviction speaks volumes for the man.
I met John Major first when he was a rising parliamentary star recruited to come to the constituency of the backbencher for whom I worked. He came to give a pep talk to the local Conservatives on a local radio programme; this constituency (Basildon) was considered a dead loss, so much so that the PM and various other Cabinet names wouldn't waste their time making a stop--but John Major came, and, we won.
Major has put together an interesting account of his time in office. Thankfully he concentrates on his political career (not spending hundreds of pages giving us the sort of childhood information that rarely adds value to a political autobiography), starting with his first victory coming to the House of Commons in 1979 (Margaret Thatcher's first victory as leader) and culminating with the 1997 electoral defeat, which he took with relatively good grace and rather few recriminations. And, whereas many political figures spend a large part of their memoirs in a 'If I were still there' mode, Major only devotes a few pages to the follow-up and future (in a five-page chapter entitled Aftermath) preferring not to speculate on irrelevant imponderables, and avoiding the problem of which he was most critical in his predecessor--that being of not wanting to let go.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Well written and a very comprehensive insight into John Major's life and the post Thatcher Government.Published 2 months ago by R L Green
I liked his early life in parts of the world I know well. His rise to the top seemed more accident than design. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Colin Edward
Great condition and this book is a must read for anyone interested in politics, especially if you want to know about the 90's and how it's affected todayPublished 9 months ago by Amazon Customer
This book took me a while to read. I like the author's choice of words and style of writing. He is very descriptive of the political landscape of the times. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Mikey
Decent read although in places some of the descriptions are too "Major" biased to appear credible. Gives food for thought on some of the events that have happened since it was... Read morePublished 13 months ago by P. Mckenna
I bought this for my husband as a present and he thoroughly enjoyed reading it. A very interesting autobiograpyPublished 16 months ago by m m castle
I generally enjpy political autobiographies but this is one of the drabber ones. I enjoy detail but this is too detailed and, too often on sunjects such as Europe, Major delivers a... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Richard